What’s the difference between the
HLOOKUP
and
VLOOKUP
formulas in Excel?
While both functions are used to look up and retrieve data from a table, they operate in slightly different ways.
HLOOKUP
stands for “Horizontal Lookup,” while
VLOOKUP
stands for “Vertical Lookup.”
The main difference between the two is the direction in which they search for data.
HLOOKUP
searches horizontally (from left to right) across the first row in the
table_array
, while
VLOOKUP
searches vertically (from top to bottom) down the first column in the
table_array
.
This means that the data you’re trying to retrieve must be arranged in a specific way for each function to work effectively.
What Is HLOOKUP?
When working with large sets of data in Excel, it can be challenging to find specific information. The
HLOOKUP
function is one of Excel’s most useful tools for searching and retrieving data from a table.
HLOOKUP
stands for
Horizontal Lookup
, which means it searches for a value in the first row of a table and returns a corresponding value in the same column from a specified row number. It is similar to
VLOOKUP
, but instead of searching for data vertically, it searches for the data horizontally in the first row of the
table_array
.
For example, let’s say you have a table of sales data with years in the first horizontal row and the names of different products in the first vertical axis. If you want to search for how much in sales was made by Widget A, you can use
HLOOKUP
to search for the year and then the distance in rows from the year row to Widget A.
What Is VLOOKUP?
As an Excel user, you may have heard of
VLOOKUP
, which stands for
Vertical Lookup
. It is a function that allows you to search for a specific value in the first column of a table and return a corresponding value in the same row from another column in the table.
VLOOKUP
is a powerful tool that saves time and effort when working with large data sets. It is commonly used for tasks such as finding the price of a product based on its code or looking up a customer’s name based on their ID number.
The syntax for the
VLOOKUP
function is relatively simple. You need to specify the value you want to look up, the range of cells containing the table, the column number of the value you want to return, and whether you want an exact or approximate match.
Overall,
VLOOKUP
is a valuable function that can help you quickly find and retrieve data in Excel. However, it is important to understand its limitations and potential pitfalls, such as the fact that it only works with data arranged in a specific way (i.e. the ID must be in the first column of the
table_array
).
Syntax Differences
When it comes to the syntax of
HLOOKUP
and
VLOOKUP
functions, there may appear to be no real differences, but there is one key difference.
Remember, the
HLOOKUP
function searches for a value in the
first row
of a table, and the
VLOOKUP
function searches for a value in the
first column
of a table, and this is evident in the
third parameter
of each function.
Here’s the formula syntax for the
HLOOKUP
function:
=HLOOKUP(lookup_value, table_array, row_index_num, [range_lookup])
Parameter  Description 

lookup_value

The value to search for in the first row of the table. 
table_array

The range of cells representing the table. 
row_index_num

The row number in the table from which to return a value. 
range_lookup

Optional . A logical value that specifies whether to find an exact match or an approximate match. 
And here’s the formula syntax for the
VLOOKUP
function:
=VLOOKUP(lookup_value, table_array, column_index_num, [range_lookup])
On the other hand, the syntax for
VLOOKUP
is as follows:
Parameter  Description 

lookup_value

The value to search for in the first column of the table. 
table_array

The range of cells representing the table. 
col_index_num

The column number in the table from which to return a value. 
range_lookup

Optional . A logical value that specifies whether to find an exact match or an approximate match. 
As you can see, the main difference is that
HLOOKUP
uses the parameter
row_index_num
to specify the
row number
in the table, while
VLOOKUP
uses the parameter
col_index_num
to specify the
column number
.
Every other parameter can be the same.
Functionality Differences
When it comes to Excel, the
HLOOKUP
and
VLOOKUP
functions are two of the most commonly used functions for finding data in a table. While they may seem similar, there are some key differences between the two that are important to understand.
Firstly, the
HLOOKUP
function searches for data in the top row of the
table_array
, while the
VLOOKUP
function searches for data in the first column of the
table_array
.
This means that the orientation of your table will determine which function you should use.
If the value you are looking for can be found in the first column, you should use
VLOOKUP
, and if it can be found in the first row, you should use
HLOOKUP
.
Remember, it is important to know when using
VLOOKUP
, that the lookup value must be in the
leftmost column
of the table, while with HLOOKUP, it must be in the
top row
of the table. This can be a little confusing at first, but it’s important to keep in mind when using these functions.
Overall, both functions have their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to choose the right one for your specific needs. By understanding the differences between
HLOOKUP
and
VLOOKUP
, you can make sure that you’re using the right function for the job.
When To Use HLOOKUP
As I mentioned earlier,
HLOOKUP
is used to search for a value in the top row of a table and return a corresponding value from a row below.
Here are some scenarios where
HLOOKUP
might be the better option:
 You have a table with headers along the top row and you want to search for a value in one of those headers.
 You want to retrieve data from a row below a matching value in the top row.
I’ve written another article on the
HLOOKUP
function, providing more tips and tricks
on how you can use the formula effectively.
When To Use VLOOKUP
As I mentioned earlier,
VLOOKUP
is an excellent tool when you need to search for data in a table and retrieve information from a different column. Here are some specific situations where
VLOOKUP
is particularly useful:
 When you have a large table and need to search for a specific value quickly
 When you need to retrieve information from a different column based on a specific value
One important thing to keep in mind is that
VLOOKUP
only works when the lookup value is in the leftmost column of the table. If your lookup value is in a different column, you’ll need to use a different function or rearrange your table so that the lookup value is in the leftmost column.
Conclusion
After comparing the
HLOOKUP
and
VLOOKUP
functions in Excel, I have found that both are useful for different purposes.
HLOOKUP
is best used when searching for data in a row, while
VLOOKUP
is best used when searching for data in a column.
It is important to note that both functions have their limitations.
HLOOKUP
can only search for data in the top row, while
VLOOKUP
can only search for data in the leftmost column in the table array.
Overall, the decision to use
HLOOKUP
or
VLOOKUP
depends on the specific needs of the user. It is important to understand the differences between the two functions in order to choose the one that will be most effective for the task at hand.